We recently teamed up with STRIVE, a local nonprofit program that serves young tweens, teens, and adults with developmental disabilities. They focus on improving fundamental academic skills, developing leadership potential, integrating literary and social skills into occupational/vocational opportunities, promoting peer support and so much more. STRIVE’s Next STEP program was looking to expand their literacy activities, and we thought who better to read to than shelter animals? And so, our Reading to Cats Program was born.
Every Wednesday a group of students from the Next STEP program visit the ARLGP. They bring their favorite books and find a comfy spot in our multi-cat room. They begin reading out loud, as they learn to improve their literacy skills. After no time at all, the multi-room cats begin to come out of their cubbies, perches and hidey holes. They mosey on over to the different students in the room, and lounge nearby to enjoy the stories being told. From Charlotte’s Web to Planet of the Robots- the felines have no preference of genre. They lend an attentive, non-judgmental ear as the students practice their reading out loud. It’s an amazing partnership, and an even more heartwarming sight to observe.
Heather Guglielmo, lead teacher with STRIVE, accompanies the students on their weekly trip to the ARLGP. Heather says that the Reading to Cats Program has helped the students feel more comfortable and increases their self confidence. More importantly, the students have observed how much the cats love to listen to the consistent sound of the stories. They relax and purr—sometimes even taking a seat on their books!
At the ARLGP we love this program because the cats and students both benefit. The students have become great advocates for our cats and are excited to help the cats get acquainted with new people. Engaging with potential adopters helps to improve the students social and leadership skills and cats in the reading program are adopted quickly when they have a student advocate.
Check out some photos below of our Reading to Cats Program in action, and join us in giving a big PAWS UP to these paw-some STRIVE students!